Taking Breaks Correctly Can Lead To Regular Success

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Taking a break from the poker game is rarely discussed in gaming publications. Yet, strange as it may seem at first blush, it can be important to success at the poker table.

The other evening, as Lucy and I dined at the El Coyote Mexican Restaurant in Los Angeles (our favorite), instead of discussing strategies and tactics, we got into an interesting conversation about taking a break from the poker table. I wanted to tell her about a well-seasoned poker player – call him Joe – who took frequent breaks, and almost always at the wrong time in so far as his best poker interests were concerned. But first, let’s discuss the whole idea of taking a break.

After playing for a while, every poker player has the need to take a break from the game. He leaves the table for, perhaps, 10-15 minutes. During that time, he may go to the restroom or take a short walk in the fresh air to refresh himself. Some feel the need to go for a smoke.

After suffering a big loss in a hand or a bad beat on the river, some players just want to get away from the table to avoid going on tilt. They feel the need to gain better control of their emotions; it can save lots of valuable chips. It may take willpower to get up from the table and walk away for a while.

Here’s another good reason for taking a break that, I’ll wager, few players have thought about. Personally, I sometimes take a break from the game by sitting out an orbit to study a new opponent, especially when a player leaving the game is replaced by another whose playing traits I know not. (Know thy “enemy.”) By the time I get back into the game, I have a pretty good idea as to whether he is tight or loose, passive or aggressive. Is he a “maniac” who raises very often? By then, I have decided whether he is a PokerPigeon or a PokerShark. Usually, I make note of that information to be better prepared to play against him.

How long a time? Most casinos will remove your chips and any other possessions from the table if you are gone for a long time – 20 minutes or more – especially if there is a waiting list for a seat. When you return, you may find another person sitting in “your” seat. Then you may need a floorperson to recover your chips and other items you left at the table. And, you may have to wait for another seat to open up to get back into action.

When to take breaks? This was the main topic of our discussion during dinner. I asked Lucy her opinion. She had never thought of that, she admitted. As usual, she did offer pertinent comments.

Joe was an elderly gentleman who closely focused his attention on the game. Whenever I came to the casino, Joe was always there, playing limit hold’em – lots of experience. He was a loose-aggressive player who may have bluffed on occasion. On that basis, I might have labeled him a PokerShark.

On this particular evening, based on the stacks of chips in front of him, Joe seemed to be winning; but, on many other occasions, I have seen him go to his wallet to buy more – and more – poker chips. If the game is going against him, he will often change seats or move to another table. And he takes lots of breaks.

That’s OK. But, what I observed, was, apparently, he pays no attention to his position when he takes his breaks – often at the wrong times in my opinion. Lucy agreed. My rule is never take breaks just before a late position – the Button, the Cut-off, and Hi-Jack.

What’s more, Joe often takes a break during the times the Aces-Cracked bonus is in effect. He misses out on the chance to get lucky and win the $100 bonus. Made me wonder: Perhaps Joe is actually a PokerPigeon.

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